Dickens World Review

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  • Value For Money

Code Red's review of Dickens World

★★☆☆☆

“Kent being generally a bit of a black hole when it...”

Written on: 03/06/2007 by Code Red (1 review written)

Good Points
1. Town square and buildings.
2. Food.
3. The general infrastructure and setup is good, has the potential to be really great.
4. Anything that makes Charles Dickens entertaining for kids deserves a round of applause.

Bad Points
1. Charging the full rate when the attraction clearly isn't finished.
2. No signposts to attractions, no programme even, describing what these so-called attractions are.
3. Many attractions still not open including the Theatre, features not working are smells, animatronics.
4. Headache-inducing 4D show.
5. Rubbish boat ride.
6. Fagin's Den Harvester-style soft play cop-out.
7. Naff gift shop.

General Comments
Kent being generally a bit of a black hole when it comes to entertainment, I was very pleased to hear of the new Dickens World being opened in Chatham. The so-called £62 million figure being bandied about in the press immediately sets the expectations very high. Did Dickens World meet those expectations? Well, yes and no.



The first irritation was the queues into a sterile-looking foyer area with only two or three tills. There was space for at least a dozen more. The price I thought was reasonable enough, if everything had been open, but it appears that the attraction had fallen behind schedule and with the financial imperative to be open in time for the half term holidays, had overridden the fact that in places it still resembled a building site. If they'd knocked a few quid off the price and made it clear at the entrance that all the good stuff wasn't ready yet, we would have been happier.



The initial impression as you walk in is very good, the buildings look very authentic and the town square clearly has a lot of potential for entertainment and atmosphere but as the day wore on, potential became the phrase that we were using more and more. The authentic feel was ruined as you encountered areas that were still incomplete, you'd walk along a cobbled street and then find yourself climbing some stairs made of concrete or hardboard.



A major problem is that a) there are little in the way of directions to the attractions and b) there was nothing telling you what the attractions actually are. All we had was a small flyer, the kind that you find in racks in hotel foyers, that told you virtually nothing. The square needs some signposts and a printed programme or map of some sort would be good. Instead, we frequently found ourselves stumbling around like lost sheep looking for something to do.



The first thing we did was queue for the much-haunted boat ride. An hour and a half later we finally got into our boat. The queue is fair enough, we've done Disneyworld etc. the difference is that Disney makes a real effort to keep the people in the queues entertained as they wait, while we had to make do with staring at the authentically distressed walls. The ride itself was a disappointment, I could quite easily have reproduced the effect by pushing a few people in a shopping trolley past some shop dummies and then chucking a bucket of water over them. The promised plague of rats never appeared and the totally pointless soaking at the end ruined the rest of the day as we had to walk around with damp underwear.



Fagin's Den was an off-the-peg children's playground, which made no attempt to fit in with the theme. My son enjoyed it immensely but then he's four and easily pleased.



We couldn't face the two-hour long queue for the haunted house but according to other people it was rubbish.



The Theatre wasn't open and judging by the so-called authentic hardboard shuttering, sounds of hammering and power drills inside, it was a long way from being so.



Dotheboys School was a row of desks where you could play snakes and ladders on touch screens, which was as interactive as it got. We were expecting to be handed slates and chalk and be scolded by a 19th Century schoolteacher but another opportunity to be truly interactive, entertaining and instructive was missed.



Peggoty's Boathouse was advertised as a 4D cinema experience. I wasn't expecting anything personally, as I'm blind in one eye so these 3D things never work for me but my wife informed me that it was blurry, out of sync, not 3D at all and made her feel sick. I had a headache by the end of it and the actual show was a very amateurish animation of Dickens life story which, let's face it, was not the most exciting of lives. The only point I remembered was that he dumped his wife after her 10th child because she got a bit fat and shacked up with some actress. So the cumulative sum of the experience was, my eyes hurt and wasn't that Dickens bloke a git?



A lot of criticism was levelled at the price and quality of the food on TV but frankly, the people complaining looked like the kind who live on McDonalds. I thought the food was excellent, I recommend the Butternut Squash and Goat's Cheese Wellington and the price was reasonable for food at this kind of attraction. I would say that they also need to cater for the greasy chips and ketchup brigade. The place needs an authentic and filthy rat-infested tavern selling burgers etc in addition to the fine dining experience.



The Old Curiosity Shoppe turned out to be the usual last chance to relieve you of your money as you walk out the door gift shop you get in these kind of places. Even me, with my generally cynical outlook on life, was staggered by the absolute and total lack of effort in making this place look anything remotely approaching authentic. I could have been anywhere. The gifts themselves were unimaginative, overpriced tat. Lollies and bath bombs etc. In a place that's themed around Dickens you'd have expected to at least be able to buy his books, but no. No DVDs of film adaptations of his work. Just some over-sized pens with Dickens World written on the side. How much better it would have been to have some of the shops in the town square itself selling bits and pieces, rather than just being storage areas for mops and buckets.



We did have a good day out but as it stands, the place doesn't deserve the £62 million price tag attached to it. Any place that's new is still going to be a bit rough around the edges but our advice is wait about six months before bothering with this place, unless they're prepared to drop the prices while it's still being completed.

  • Value For Money

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Degbert's Response to Code Red's Review

Written on: 06/06/2007

I think this guy is on the mark here. I think the number of folk turning up and automatically comparing it to Disney or Chessington or Alton Towers is entirely missing the point of what these smaller, more niche places are for. They are not meant to overload you with colour, explosions, noise, fun, sugar and Disney. It is meant to be quaint, quirky, home-grown, independent, perhaps even a little odd.
<br/>Whatever the disappointments are, we mustn't level at it for being not as good as another theme park. Please let's not even consider it that. Indeed, calling it an attraction is fine but theme park it really isn't.
<br/>I think the target audience is people who want to learn or want their kids to learn, without somehow removing the integrity or intellect from the experience, which is what so many of these other parks do. Having just spent what felt like an eternity suffering Universal Studios in Florida, I feel strangely obliged to make this comment.

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Mirage38's Response to Code Red's Review

Written on: 23/06/2008

Thanks for your comment on my review page, I have asked for a full refund, but to date I have received no reply, such a poor company to deal with.

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Notnilc's Response to Code Red's Review

Written on: 08/06/2007

Nobody is comparing it to Disney World, let alone Chessington because there is no comparison.
<br/>It's the fact that nothing works, the much advertised animatronics, smells, sounds are just not there.
<br/>What is there are so called attractions, they are substandard and not worth the price of a ticket. People are paying to be entertained and the advertising that persuaded them to buy tickets does not reflect the reality of the venue. People have been deceived.
<br/>The only so called attractions are:
<br/>1. Haunted house - 4 video clips, pathetic!
<br/>2. Fagins Den - kids play area same as in any family pub.
<br/>3. 4d Cartoon - 10 minutes, I found it OK however others complained of headaches.
<br/>4. Theatre - that wasn't open.
<br/>5. Boat ride - which without the sounds/smells etc is boring.
<br/>6. The re-creation of Victorian Buildings is excellent.
<br/>7. A few actors in costumes trying to jolly things along unconvincingly.
<br/>
<br/>And that is it, not a great deal for £12.50 adult, £7.50 children plus the high cost of food and drink in the venue. After people have travelled long distances and/or queued a long time to get in, it is just not acceptable! Finally the British public are learning to complain and not accept rubbish.

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